Beta-glucan may ease exercise-induced immune suppression in less active people: Wellmune study

By Stephen DANIELLS

- Last updated on GMT

Image: © iStockPhoto / g-stockstudio
Image: © iStockPhoto / g-stockstudio

Related tags: Immune system

Daily supplements of the baker’s yeast beta glucan ingredient Wellmune may improve mucosal immunity post-exercise amongst general, non-exercising adults, says a new study from the University of North Texas.

While it is known that prolonged strenuous exercise suppresses the immune system, and reportedly increases the risk of respiratory tract infections and a lost training days and athletic performance, it is not known if less active people also experience a suppression of their immunity after exercise.

New data presented at the National Strength and Conditioning Association annual conference in Orlando, FL indicated that even a small amount of exercise stress can trigger a drop in immune responses, said Brian McFarlin, PhD, director of the Applied Physiology Laboratory at the University of North Texas. “These new results also suggest that Wellmune can help enhance key immune functions to keep individuals healthy,”​ he added.

The study’s findings add to previous peer-reviewed studies in trials in people performing intense exercise (McFarlin et al. Journal of Dietary Supplements​, 2013, Vol. 10, pp. 171–183 and Carpenter et al. British Journal of Nutrition​, 2013, Vol. 109, pp 478-486), and marathon runners (McFarlin et al. Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine​, Vol. 44, Supplement S181, 1376 Board #157).

Study details

For the new study Dr McFarlin and his co-workers recruited 109 young men and women aged between 18 and 35 and randomly assigned them to received 250 mg per day of Wellmune or placebo for 10 days. At the end of the study the participants were required to briskly walk or jog on a treadmill for 90 minutes in a hot, humid environment.

Results showed that Wellmune supplementation was associated with significant increases in salivary IgA – an antibody that plays a critical role in mucosal immunity. This result demonstrating that the yeast beta glucan may have a positive impact on potential immunosuppression in a less active population, said the researchers.

Don Cox, PhD, Sr VP at Biothera Healthcare R&D, welcomed the results, saying: “Combined with previous research in fit subjects, this new study suggests that Wellmune offers immune health benefits to the general population while engaged in exercise, ranging from individuals with low fitness level to elite athletes.

“These results are consistent with the numerous studies that demonstrate Wellmune’s ability to enhance key immune functions and help maintain health energy levels in people experiencing physical or psychological stress.”

The full poster presented at the conference can be accessed HERE​.

The ingredient

Wellmune is a beta-glucan based ingredient derived from the cell walls of a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae​) that ‘primes’ the innate immune system - the body’s first line of defense against invasion by bacteria and viruses.

Data indicates that fragments of Wellmune digested and released by macrophages bind to the CR3 receptor sites on neutrophils, priming these cells for disease-fighting activity without over-boosting the immune system.

The ingredient can withstand wide pH ranges, high temperatures and harsh processing conditions, claims Biothera.

Designed for use with foods, beverages and premium supplements, Wellmune can be used in a large number of subcategories in each segment. For example, beverages example, may include dairy, waters, teas, juices, sports drinks and other functional beverages, as well as powdered beverages.

To produce it, Biothera removes the mannans, proteins and lipids from a proprietary strain of yeast to produce a highly purified beta 1,3/1,6 glucan (which should be distinguished from cholesterol-busting oat beta glucan, which has a different molecular structure: 1,3/1,4).

Finished products

Wellmune is used in hundreds of products around the world and more than 60 in the US with numerous products in development, a spokesperson for the company told NutraIngredients-USA. Of those, there are approximately a half dozen product targeted specially at the sports nutrition category with several new sports nutrition products in development.

"We have several new products in development and scheduled to launch in the US over the next year,"​ added the spokesperson. "One in particular is an immune boosting fruit bar targeted at the on-the-go, health and wellness focused consumer, which is currently sold in Canada and will be launching in the US at the end of the month.

"Other product launches range from sports nutrition, children and families, healthy aging as well as general health and wellness. In addition, we have ongoing discussions with major food and beverage companies that are interested in formulating with Wellmune."

Source: National Strength and Conditioning Association annual conference​, Orlando, Florida
“Baker’s Yeast Beta Glucan Supplementation Improves Mucosal Immunity: Implications for Preventing Lost Training Days?”
Authors: BK McFarlin, AL Henning, EA Prado, AS Venable, JN Best Sampson, DW Hill, and JL Vingren.

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